Preaching Connection: Christ

Reading for Preaching

A Month of Sundays

Updike offers a fascinating set of musings on the miracles of Christ, (p. 100) “this most tender flesh of the New Testament.” (p. 102): “There once thrived, in that pained and systematic land of Germany, a school of Biblical scholarship that sought to reduce all of the Biblical miracles to natural happenings. The Red Sea’s...
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Under God: Religion and American Politics

On Jesus and Judas at the Last Supper. “Jesus seems complicitous in Judas’ sin, if not provoking it. Indeed there is an odd intimacy in the exchanges of the two men at the final supper and in the moment before Jesus’ arrest. Only these two know what is really happening. They seem to fence over...
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The Divine Trinity

“The gospels report Jesus as referring to his own reputation as a gluttonous man and a winebibber, but never think it necessary to refute the charge. It would not have taken much to twist the Zaccheus episode into living it up with the exploiting classes instead of identifying with the dispossessed. Nor would many a...
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Additional content related to Christ

John 3:1-17

We visited part of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus back in Lent. But back then, we focused on verses 14-21 and we didn’t get Nicodemus’s great question for Trinity Sunday in verse 9: “How can these things be?” Of course, Nicodemus is asking about how it’s possible for humans to be born from above or again,…

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Acts 8:26-40

This section of Acts is filled with characters who challenge and expand our notion of belonging, the church and how Jesus saves. So what do we know about the man in this morning’s text? We know he was important enough to God that the Spirit sent Philip literally chasing his through the desert. We know…

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Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

By the end of Psalm 118 it is easy to see why the Lectionary would connect these words with Palm Sunday.  The imagery of a festal throng of people going up to the Temple waving tree branches exuberantly in the air makes this fit the traditional ways we picture the events of Jesus’s entrance into…

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Numbers 21:4-9

The people of Israel have been wandering around in that desert for quite awhile. You know how this goes: slaves in Egypt, they are freed by God’s mighty hand, some plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. They make it to the border of the Promised Land, send in some spies who — with…

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John 2:13-22

So far in Lent we’ve reflected on why we should we heed Jesus’s call to repent and believe that the Kingdom of God has come near, and we’ve realized that we have no idea how God works but that we need to follow him on the crucifix journey in order to learn. This week we…

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Mark 9:2-9

We transition towards Lent with the Transfiguration. Similar to Matthew and Luke’s account, the Transfiguration event takes place after Jesus prophesies his future suffering. In fact, it’s this suffering speech (in Matthew) that leads Peter to try to rebuke Jesus, and to be subsequently told by Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan!” Though we can’t know…

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Matthew 22:34-46

Comments, Questions, and Observations We are still in the temple, still dealing with the temple leaders engaging Jesus in the hopes of trapping or discrediting him. Last week we read about the Pharisees sending their disciples to question Jesus, and in-between those verses and this week’s text, the Sadducees took a round in the inquisition….

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Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Preamble: Although this text comes to us through the ordinary three-year lectionary cycle, it also lands with particularly distressing and uncomfortable timing. As war rages over the lands once promised to Moses, I urge pastors to tread lightly, as I have attempted to do here. First, we acknowledge that the modern nation-state of Israel is…

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Matthew 21:33-46

If we thought the last parable was a pointed commentary, this one is sure to make us a little squirmy. Continuing to publicly address the leaders of the temple, Jesus builds his case about the disobedience and rejection he sees from those who ought to know better. Then, he makes a biting prophecy about his…

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Matthew 16:21-28

How quickly being a “rock” can make you a stumbling block. Peter learns the very hard lesson that some of us also need to hear: just because someone tells you that you’re their rock doesn’t mean you get to tell them what to do with their life. Granted, last week Jesus didn’t mean that Peter…

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Matthew 16:13-20

Comments, Questions, and Observations We continue in the borderlands of the north this week, but this time we’re a little more firmly located in Israel in the district of Caesarea-Philippi. Both Matthew and Mark (8.27-30) highlight the location of this famous conversation, whereas Luke (9.18-20) helps us understand its heavenly prompt. In all three synoptics,…

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Matthew 21:1-11

Comments, Questions, and Observations Somehow, even in the midst of the shouts of praise, the displays of adoration and respect as the crowd prepares the way for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, somehow, even with all this, this text seems understated for what it represents. Or, maybe that’s exactly what it is supposed to feel like…

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Isaiah 49:1-7

In the Servant Songs in this part of Isaiah the Lord God alternates speaking with the Servant himself also making remarks or comments.  In this passage we hear from both the God who pre-ordained the Servant long before he was born and from the Servant himself.  From God’s side we get high-flying confidence.  From the…

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Isaiah 9:2-7

The first and last titles that we read in Isaiah 9:6 remind us that in God’s Messiah, we find someone who embodies both wisdom and strength.  And as with John’s description of the Word of God being full of both grace and truth, so also with wisdom and strength: we all know people who have…

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Luke 23:33-43

If you are new to the lectionary cycle, you may have found this week’s gospel passage quite jarring: the crucifixion in November? What is going on? It is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Sunday that comes at the end of the church year, our quasi-New Year’s Eve, and on it our focus is…

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Colossians 1:11-20

When the people in Colosse originally heard Paul’s letter to them, they knew about the kinds of dominions about which he talks in verse 13. After all, when things went wrong in their day, their contemporaries didn’t generally blame each other. They, instead, blamed powers that their culture understood to be “in charge.” They pointed…

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Proper 29A: Christ the King Sunday; Damned if You Don’t

When a teacher announces that the material for the day will appear on a test, there is usually a rustle of paper, a snap of pens, and some special attention given to the lesson for that day. The same thing is true of life. If life is merely a languid succession of days and years,…

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Luke 4:1-13

Comments, Questions and Observations Couched between our text for this Sunday and the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3.21-22) is Jesus’ genealogy. The words immediately before Jesus entering the wilderness are, “the son of Adam, the son of God.” (3.38) Thus, not only can we read Jesus’ forty days of trials in the wilderness alongside the…

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Luke 5:1-11

Fear, as we all know, is a powerful motivator. History is full of proof of fear’s ability to keep awful people in power—and if we look deep enough, we also see how awful people are motivated by their own fears. But we also know from the biblical account that not all fear is a reaction…

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John 2:1-11

This text is an example of how we can miss important revelation from God if we get too caught up in, for lack of a better term, the humanness of the Gospel narratives. Or, more precisely, maybe it’s more that our cultural baggage and experiences that get us stuck when we read these texts. I…

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Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

The Lectionary has us skip the drama of Ruth 2 and then dips in briefly to Ruth 3 for the connection with Boaz and then zooms ahead to the very end of Ruth 4 for the “happy ending” of the tale and how it all points forward to King David.  As preachers, we are either…

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1 John 5:1-6

My colleague Judith Jones suggests that the community to which John writes his first letter was facing a crisis. Some former members of the community were denying Jesus was actually the Messiah, God’s flesh and blood, fully human, fully divine Son. So John’s letters’ readers seemed to struggle with whom they should believe, how they…

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Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is hands down the most famous poem in the Hebrew Psalter.  People seem to read their own lives and experiences into this lyric little song.  That is quite amazing given how foreign most of the imagery is.  Have you ever met a shepherd?  Spent any time with sheep?  Has your head ever been…

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Acts 4:32-35

Very early in my preaching ministry, I was producing one theological/exegetical masterpiece after another (in my own mind).  My wife wasn’t so convinced.  She put up with it for about a month, when she nailed me with this simple question.  “So what?  What difference does all that make?” In the Old Testament (?) readings for…

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John 12:20-33

“Sir, we would see Jesus.” With all due apologies to the many pastors out there who need to be addressed as “Ma’am” and not “Sir,” those of us who preach in various churches have seen those words—lifted up out of John 12:21—emblazoned on pulpits, often on a small brass plate visible to the preacher alone. …

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Mark 8:31-38

One reads of such terrible things now and then.  Stories about the happy couple who had a magical wedding and then died in a plane crash on the way to their honeymoon.  Or the man who just got the promotion he had been dreaming of but who gets hit by a bus on his way…

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1 Peter 3:18-22

It seems as though Peter nearly always returns to the cross. He constantly reminds readers that willingness to suffer for Jesus’ sake is based on the wonder of Christ’s willingness to suffer death on the cross for our sakes. So as the Church enters the season of Lent, it’s important to study I Peter 3….

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Mark 1:21-28

It was the Sabbath and so, naturally, the Jews of Capernaum went to the synagogue. Some of them went sleepily, others went with a great weariness following a busy week of work.  Still others trekked over in a rather irritable mood for who knows why–maybe it had been no more than that they were out…

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1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Like most of this Commentary’s readers, I’ve attended a number of weddings. I’ve even officiated at a few. But I can’t remember ever hearing or preaching a wedding message based on this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson. At one level that’s understandable. This short text, after all, doesn’t yield easy interpretations that would fit well into a…

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Matthew 21:1-11

Liturgy of the Palms “Who is this?”  Few questions are more important than this one Matthew reports the “whole city” of Jerusalem asks on the first Palm Sunday.  Yet the answer to that question is even more important.  The Holy Spirit inspires Matthew to answer, “This is Jesus.”  But just who is this Jesus? Matthew…

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Romans 8:6-11

Romans 8: is there a better loved, more soaring passage in the New Testament than this one?   There is much here to linger over, savor, celebrate.  The Lectionary carves out only six verses but the truth is, Romans 8:1-17 form such a logical—and also lyric—unit that I would suggest reading all 17 verses, and indeed,…

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Matthew 11:2-11

“The War on Christmas.”  We have heard about this a lot in recent years.  Some while back people assailed Starbucks for removing the word “Christmas” from their holiday coffee cups.  Some were upset some years ago that the White House wished a blanket “Happy Holidays” instead of specifically mentioning Christmas.  And some while back the…

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

All over the world the church celebrates the reign of Christ the King today.  For many of us, that is very good news because we live in places where there is huge controversy over the leadership of our countries.  Whether it’s Hong Kong where protestors clash with police over increasing communist control, or it’s Canada…

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Isaiah 65:17-25

I love how the Lectionary brings the church year to a close.  Next Sunday, of course, is the celebration of the reign of Christ the King.  This Sunday we get a dramatic vision of the completion of the work of the King with this prophecy from Isaiah 65. It’s a welcome relief from our long…

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John 10:22-30

For the last 12 or so years, few names in the world have been more famous than that of Barack Obama.  Not so long ago, however, that was not the case.  Indeed, not so very long ago almost no one had ever heard of Obama.  A scant four years before he managed to get nominated…

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Isaiah 50:4-9b

Clearly, the composers of the Revised Common Lectionary thought this little snippet of Scripture was perfect for Palm Sunday because they have selected it for all three years of the preaching cycle.  I’m not sure your people will see it that way, because it is obviously more about Christ’s suffering than about his Triumphal Entry. …

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Luke 4:1-13

“He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them, he was hungry.”  Luke 4:2 I’ll say. This curious line in verse 2 is easy to glide past en route to the real drama to come once the devil shows up to woo Jesus to his side.  At best we see this as…

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Psalm 132:1-18

Digging into the Text: Psalm 132 is the longest of the Psalms of Ascent, and bears little resemblance the the themes and forms of the other Psalms in this collection.  Many scholars think the Psalms of Ascent were used by Israel especially for the pilgrimage feasts (Passover and Pentecost) for which large numbers of pilgrims…

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Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

Hebrews 10 may please both those who proclaim and those hear the Lectionary texts from Hebrews who feel like saying, “Enough of all that talk about Jesus and blood already.  Just tell us what to do.”  After all, after almost endlessly teaching us about Jesus and his work, this week’s text finally teaches us what…

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Mark 7:24-37

Digging Into the Text: The RCL throws another curve ball this week. Last week it was cutting out part of the text; this week it’s piling one story on another.  So, the choice is to either preach both, or skip one of them to concentrate on the other.  Preaching both might not be the best…

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Ephesians 2:11-22

When a text begins with a “Therefore” or a phrase like “After these things . . .”, you as a reader know you have to back up and read what came just before.  Sometimes we don’t do that, of course.  We have come to view the Bible as so many chopped-up chapters and verses—with convenient…

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2 Samuel 5:1-10

When North Americans think of politics, even some Christians sometimes think only of endless campaigns and slick advertising.  We sometimes relegate talk about God’s involvement in politics to the conversations of people we think of as religious zealots.  At least some Christians are especially reluctant to talk about God’s role in putting people into political…

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2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

2 Samuel 7’s David has been busy battling both Israel’s internal and external enemies.  He’s also just finished “battling” his wife, Michal.  So some who proclaim and hear 2 Samuel 7 feel a little like David.  We come from dealing with, sometimes even “battling” people in our neighborhoods, families (and even churches). So we some…

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

If you are searching for things to include under the heading “The Oddities of Scripture,” you likely could do no better than perusing the various chapters of Ezekiel.  The book opens with a vision so strange that not a few people in the last century concluded that Ezekiel witnessed a UFO replete with extraterrestrials.   (Back…

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Psalm 100

It is interesting that the Lectionary begins and ends Ordinary Time with Psalm 100.  We looked at this beloved Psalm back on June 18, the second Sunday of Ordinary Time. Now we return to it on this last Sunday, when we celebrate the fact that Christ is King of all the earth.  If you preached…

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Ephesians 5:8-14

In one of the verses of this Lectionary selection Paul says that “it is shameless even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”  Apparently the Lectionary agrees because it has carved out these verses from within a wider context where Paul does name—at least a bit more specifically—what some of those deeds of darkness…

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Psalm 23

On the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are given a tough assignment by the RCL: preach on Psalm 23, the best known, best loved text in the entire Bible.  Rolf Jacobsen summarizes the difficulty of such an assignment.  We can run the risk of trivializing the sublime.  Or we can turn the sermon into an…

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Matthew 11:2-11

Last year it was the cups at Starbucks.   But every year somebody finds something by which to allege that a coordinated war is being waged on Christmas.  Last year since Starbucks stopped putting Merry Christmas on its red holiday paper coffee cups, some customers did a coy end-run on it all by giving their names…

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Luke 4:1-13

“He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them, he was hungry.” Luke 4:2 I’ll say. This curious line in verse 2 is easy to glide past en route to the real drama to come once the devil shows up to woo Jesus to his side. At best we see this as…

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Ephesians 1:3-14

On this first Sunday of the New Year, it can feel like we are entering “the bleak mid-winter.” All the holiday celebrations are over, so now it’s just one cold, grey, snowy day after another, at least here in West Michigan. But that’s not where our lectionary lesson from the Epistles takes us today. This…

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1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

Two Temples. Two Boys. One boy apparently lost. One boy apparently given away. But, of course, the one boy is not at all lost but is at home in the Temple doing his real Father’s work. The other boy is making his home in the Temple and slowly discovering what may well be the focus…

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Luke 2:41-52

The movie Home Alone could probably have worked as slapstick comedy no matter what time of the year the story was set in. But as it stands, the story takes place at Christmastime when a frantic family jets off to Paris for Christmas only to discover too late that they had left their youngest child…

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Philippians 2:5-11

Comments, Observations, and Questions For this sermon commentary, I am going to zero in on the question asked by the Palm Sunday crowd in Matthew 21:10.  As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by the acclamation of the crowd, “the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’”  The crowds around Jesus…

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Isness, Wasness, Comeness

Preached on Thanksgiving weekend which was also Christ the King Sunday.

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